Nine girls. Nine horses.
All in sync as one team -- the Crow Wing County 4-H Large Freestyle Drill Team is after one important goal; to defend its 2015 state title.
The 4-H Drill Team will head to the 2016 state competition scheduled Saturday in the AgStar Arena at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The team has competed at the state level since 2010 and took first place last year and would like to do it again this year.
To defend their title would mean the world to team captains -- Kaitlyn Borgstrom, a 2016 Brainerd High School graduate, and Samantha Meier, a 2015 BHS graduate, as it will be Meier’s last year on the drill team and Borgstrom second to last year. The two girls are best friends.
Borgstrom said once this season is over, she will miss having Meier on the team.
“You have truly showed me the ropes on what a drill team does,” Borgstrom told Meier.
The drill team performed Tuesday night at the horse arena on the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds to show folks its nine-minute, 20-second routine the team plans to take to state competition. The nine girls, ages 12 to 19, did the choreography of their routine where the girls and their horses ride in unison and in synchronized patterns and “dance” to music, which included “Eye of the Tiger,” “Summer of ‘69” and “Footloose.”
On the team are:
• Borgstrom and her horse Kahve.
• Meier and her horse George.
• Abby Ashmore, a BHS ninth-grader, and her horse Vanzi.
• Alex Keating, a BHS sophomore, and her horse Georgia.
• Ashlyn Schnider, a BHS ninth-grader, and her horse Coffee.
• Maddie Bernie, a junior at BHS, and her horse Quixote.
• Jessica Larson, a sophomore at Pequot Lakes High School, and her horse Bubba.
• Brook Shubert, a sixth-grader in Pierz, and her horse Skip.
• Ashley Faust, a senior at Pierz Healy High School, and her horse Maveric.
The team, coached by Maria Minten, Brandon and Amy Borgstrom and Jeff Meier, have been practicing the routine since mid-May. They meet twice a week for two hours. They performed at the Crow Wing County Fair and will compete at state Saturday.
Courtney Johnson, 4-H program coordinator for Crow Wing County with the University of Minnesota Extension office, said the drill team is part of the 4-H Horse program designed to teach youth leadership, collaboration and teamwork. The girls also learn horsemanship skills, learning how to ride, safe riding and picking up horse tips from others.
“It takes a lot of skills, a lot of mastery and a lot of patience to get your horse to do what you want,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to do it as an individual, but to do as a group is a whole other challenge.”
Meier started on the drill team in 2008. Meier, who also is a two-time state qualifier in the individual timed events in horse programs, said she has always loved horses since she was a child. She joined 4-H and in the beginning she didn’t do any projects on horses, but she did them on dogs. She said then she knew she had to do her projects with horses as it was her passion.
“My dad always had horses, we always had horses,” Meier said. “They are your own therapist. you can talk to them and they listen to you.”
Meier said what is most challenging with training her horse for the drill team is having the horse understand all the different maneuvers, such as its leg cues, how and when to pivot or how to do a rollback or a side pass. Meier also said since she is a captain and holds a flag, her horse also needs to know more specific skills.
“He listens really good so I don’t have too many things that are hard for me,” Meier said. “Or another thing is he is so big so trying to get him to trot slower can be a challenge. The other captain, Kaitlyn, has a pony, so having a big horse trotting with a small pony can be tough as they both have different strides and he has such a big stride.”
Meier said what she has learned from being on the drill team is patience.
“When you get frustrated you need to sit and calm yourself down,” Meier said. “You need to be a good role model for the younger kids. They look up to us. When I was younger I looked up to the older ones. We have to set a good example.”
Kaitlyn Borgstrom, who has been on the drill team for four years, said her love for horses came natural as her parents, Amy and Brandon Borgstrom, did not own horses. Kaitlyn Borgstrom, who has been riding horses since age 3, said she fell in love with horses at the Cass County Fair. She said she hung around the horses and one of the horse handlers asked her to join.
“I loved everything about horses, with my trainer I went around and around on the pony ring and I made a dream I said ‘I will be in 4-H and be on the Crow Wing County Drill Team on a Rosvold Farms pony,’” Borgstrom said. “This is it and this is my dream and Kahve is the Rosvold pony and I have been riding him since I was 14, he’s made my dream come true.”
Borgstrom said Kahve has an attitude at times.
“He was sick as a baby so they hand raised him so he thinks he is a person,” Borgstrom said. “He listens pretty well. I was told I make him look good.”
Borgstrom said she has learned a lot about herself being on the drill team, how to speak in front of people, how to present herself with her horse and how to communicate. Borgstrom said she is proud of the girls on the team as they all contributed to creating the routine.
They were all in sync and when the captains blew the whistles, the girls and their horses knew there was a position change. The team made figure eights, went into a straight line, did interlocking patterns and circled in step around the pivot horse and rider.
Amy Borgstrom, who knew nothing about 4-H until her daughter joined the drill team, said the most important part of the drill team is friendship.
“The connections they built, and it’s neat to see them become a team, this is what they’ve grown from since Day One,” Borgstrom said. “We really enforced it for them to be a team.”
And that is what the girls do.